Peak Season: Radicchio

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Photograph courtesy Flickr/avlxyz

The human tongue has a love-hate relationship with bitterness. The combination of toothpaste and orange juice is foul, but we’ve made delicacies of coffee and dark chocolate. With its purplish, veiny leaves and intensely bitter kick, radicchio—as well as the family of greens known as chicories—is a controversial salad star. Some people savor the tooth-rattling punch the Italian veggie adds to winter dishes; others pick it out intentionally. If you’re in the latter group, try grilling it, which mellows the flavor. “I love the bitterness of radicchio,” says Oliverio’s Italian chef Mirko Paderno. He deep-fries the leaves until they’re crispy or cooks them slowly in a creamy risotto.